Aug 14, 2009, 12:53 PM EDT
Pablo Sandoval has quickly become one of my favorite players, because he looks like a beer-league softball slugger, swings at absolutely everything from both sides of the plate, never seems to shut up, can often be spotted dancing in the dugout, runs like he’s chasing a piece of cake, and already has a pair of great nicknames in “Kung Fu Panda” and “Fat Ichiro.” Oh, and he’s also pretty damn good.
Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News writes that “one year ago today the Giants had themselves a bouncing new baby Panda” when they called up Sandoval “and life hasn’t been the same since.” He’s hit .333/.373/.533 with 20 homers and 67 total extra-base hits in 149 games through 365 days as a big leaguer, and the 23-year-old is trying to become the first player since Tony Gwynn in 1984 to win the NL batting title in his first full season.
Sandoval has amazingly done all that damage despite drawing a grand total of 26 non-intentional walks in 601 plate appearances. For comparison, Adrian Gonzalez and Carlos Pena have both drawn more than 26 walks in a single month this season. Sandoval has swung at 60.7 percent of all the pitches he’s seen in the majors, which is the highest rate in baseball. For comparison, Luis Castillo is at the other end of the hacking spectrum at just 30.5 percent.
Naturally he leads the world by swinging at 46.9 percent of all pitches outside the strike zone and has taken a cut at over 80 percent of pitches inside the strike zone. And perhaps the most amazing stat of all is that the 5-foot-11, 250-pound galoot has somehow managed to beat out 18 infield hits to rank among the top 20 in baseball ahead of speedsters like Chone Figgins, Willy Taveras, Jason Bartlett, Nyjer Morgan, Johnny Damon, Jimmy Rollins, and Alexei Ramirez.